Numbah 99!

Holy cannolli, one more day to go!

Today’s post is going to be a short one. The last three days have been uneventful. I’ve continued on with internal purging, done some reading, contemplated signing up for a ‘free’ online workshop that promised to pinpoint my ‘blockers to success’, and done some actual, physical purging, as well.

So, a good three days, in my opinion.

Spring is taking her ever-loving time in arriving in our province this year.  Especially up here in Fort Mac. It’s mid-April and still not a blade of grass is to be seen. The trees are just barely starting to bud. The river is still frozen, though the surface is unstable and you can see  wet patches once the sun is high.

I have never seen Spring break-up, so I am very curious about it. Fort McMurray puts out public service announcements regarding the break up of winter ice on the rivers, warning of the dangers of flooding and how to prepare for an emergency situation. It’s really quite something. Until I witness it for myself, though, I guess I just won’t understand.

I’m planning to take pictures every day as the river changes. I’ll post some of them here. Here’s the first:

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April 13th. From our 7th floor balcony looking out at the Clearwater River.

There are five rivers that run through Fort Mac – the Athabasca, the Clearwater, and Horse, Hangingstone and Christina Rivers.  That’s a lot of water to be surrounded by.

This could get interesting.

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Day 96

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As I get near the end of my 100 day challenge I’m contemplating whether or not I can classify it as a success.

Did I purge something every one of those days? Did I go for a walk every single day? Have I blogged about my experiences 100 times?

The answer to the first question is yes. I have managed, in a conscious and considering way, to rid myself of something every day. I’m amazed at that. Because purging is not easy. That I have learned.  It makes you look long and hard at yourself and where you’ve gotten to in your life.

A big – no, huge – catalyst in this exercise has been my impending 60th birthday. Add to that the death of my father and the conditions were perfect for some kind of reflective action.

There have been times over these past 96 days that I have been achingly sad, uncontrollably angry, incomprehensibly furious, deliriously happy, boisterous with joy, as well as completely ambivalent about myself, my life and what I’m trying to accomplish.

Whatever I was feeling I forced myself to consider why. In doing that I was able to see that I was carrying a lot of old baggage, stuff that should have been relegated to the trash heap long ago.

I just finished reading a Stephen King short story called The Road Virus Heads North. It’s your typical SK offering – darkly funny, horrific,  and yet, somehow, representative of the reality of life. Weirdly, I think that the ‘virus’ in the story is very much like the bad stuff we carry around with us. Eventually, it’s going to get us, unless we get rid of it. Or, better yet, never pick it up.

Sometimes, like the poor sap in SK’s story, it’s not so easy to get rid of the crap that follows us. You can give up and let it get you, or you can face it and send it packing. It might take more than one attempt, and it may mean accepting some uncomfortable truths about yourself, but, if you want free of it bad enough, you can be.

Am I completely purged of all the garbage I’ve toted around for 50-some-odd years? No. But I have rid myself of a lot of it. Purging, I’ve also learned, is a life-long chore. The good thing is it gets easier the more you do it.

Now, for my other two questions.

I did not walk every day. But I gave it a good try. There weren’t many days that I missed. When the wind chills were in the minus 40’s, when we were busy with company, and once or twice when I simply didn’t want to.

Walking is one of my favourite things to do. I love the feeling of my body moving and covering ground confidently and surely. It’s my time to think and work things out. (See above.)

Currently, I have a steps goal set on my phone of 7000 steps/day. It’s pretty conservative and I generally walk quite a bit more than that; checking on that goal at the end of the day always amazes me. Did I really walk that much? Where did I go and what did I accomplish? It’s a great reminder that I was engaged, that I did something. It also keeps me committed to my weight-loss goals. If i don’t get those steps in, the weight won’t come off. And, if I don’t keep moving, the weight I have lost will creep back on. That ain’t happening.

Finally, I’m at number three. I have definitely not written/ blogged 100 times.

Writing was something I had all but given up on. When I started this I was almost embarrassed to start. It had been so long since I’d tried to write anything. But the moment I sat down to start I knew – this is what I’m made for.

I may not be a successful author, I may not write the stuff that the world sees, but I write. And, I love it. It’s my form of expression, it’s my vehicle, it’s my voice.

100 is just a number. It was a great way to get myself motivated. Whether I’ve blogged 100 times or 10 times,  it’s me, writing.

 

Day 82 – Purge the Plastic

This past weekend we took in our recyclables to the recycling station a few blocks away. I have been recycling for years. It can get to be tiresome – all that rinsing, sorting and storing, but it’s become such a habit that I’d feel guilty if I didn’t.

For the last little while I’ve really been focused on how much plastic we use. Not just personally, but collectively.

I understand that plastic has its uses and that it serves some very good purposes and that, without it, certain aspects of modern life would not be possible.

But, do we really need to individually wrap cucumbers and packages of cookies and crackers? Are little individual plastic encased pieces of cheese truly an advancement we can’t live without?

When I go grocery shopping I’m extremely conscious and picky about what I buy and how it’s packaged. If something comes in a cello-wrapped box and its contents are in turn cello-or-plastic wrapped – it ain’t ever going in my cart.

When I buy produce I rarely use those plastic produce bags. And if I do, I bring ones that I’m reusing or I use the cloth ones I bought especially for that use.

It is annoying to the cashiers, I’ve noticed, when they have to pick up my lettuce or celery and it’s not in a bag, and when they attempt to stick it in a bag and I stop them they get even more testy. I had one of them ask me one time if I wasn’t concerned about germs. I would be, I said, if I wasn’t going to wash everything once I got it home. She just glared at me.

The truth is we’ve become so tricked into thinking that covering our food in plastic is somehow preventing us from coming in contact with germs and dirt and bacteria. The only reason that plastic is there is to ensure less spoilage losses for growers, transporters and retailers.

Think about it – when summer comes and we all flock to farmer’s markets we’re not looking to buy fruits and veggies that are all wrapped in plastic,  are we?  No.  We want unwrapped produce that we can pick up, look at, smell and even taste. We bring our own bags and we happily pack our purchases into them. Why should shopping at a grocery store be any different?

The amount of plastic pollution in our world is staggering. It is a blight on the landscape and it’s poisoning our oceans, rivers and seas. The companies producing all this plastic are doing little to nothing to provide solutions to dealing with the waste their industry produces. Individuals and small concerned groups are trying to effect change, but in reality their efforts are miniscule in comparison to the problem.

A while ago I contacted Costco and asked them to reconsider how they send out their consumer magazine and flyers. Use a paper wrapper, I suggested, instead of encasing it in plastic. Costco, supposedly prides itself on how they contribute to environmental concerns. I have yet to receive a response.

Just yesterday, I sent an email to a clothing manufacturer. J.a.c.h.s Girlfriend, out of New York. I thanked them for making a very nice article of clothing, but I also thanked them for not attaching the extra button in a tiny plastic bag on a tiny plastic string. Instead, they sewed it to the washing instructions tag. Awesome.

Every little thing.

The next time you go shopping, do the world a favour, and send a message to manufacturers and distributors,  leave the plastic behind.

Day 78 — hey! It’s William Shatner’s birthday

Someone posted that little fact on FB this morning. The man is 87 today.  Happy birthday Mr. Shatner!

Thinking of him brings back some great memories. It’s not just about Star Trek – it’s about a time and the places I was in, and how those times shaped me.

There was always a certain sense of innocence, hope and belief in the inherent goodness of people/life that the Star Trek movies featuring Captain Kirk embodied. I loved that he was so much bigger than life, that his character was so incredibly over-the-top, it was like watching a manic boy scout save the world. You knew that it was all going to work out, the good guys would survive – the only casualty would be the hapless, nameless ensign in the red suit who got chosen for the away team at the last moment.

Entertainment is so different these days. Our heroes are always flawed (realistic), characters we love are constantly being killed (viewer investment) and the outcome is never guaranteed (spinoffs).

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy movies and television as they are now.  I’m just saying it’s different.

And  when I think of those lost times I feel my whole being smile. It was an event to go stand in line for a movie with your friends and family. Entertaining each other, talking, laughing and joking. Begging the staff to let you in so you could go to the bathroom. Rushing to get the best seats. Hurrying to get popcorn so that you didn’t miss any of the trailers or the short before the actual movie.  When the movie finally started you were READY. You were invested.

That doesn’t happen anymore. We pre-purchase tickets for all the big releases. Sometimes our seats are already pre-chosen. We meet moments before the movie theatre doors open, get our popcorn, file into an already dark theatre, sit in our seats and barely say a word to one another. We check our phones to avoid watching commercials and barely pay attention to the trailers because we’ve already seen them on television. There is no such thing as a short anymore, which puzzles me because they are always a category at the Oscars. Who gets to see them?

Going to the movies is just business now. I find myself leaving the theatre feeling empty no matter how good the film was. It’s just something to do. You can say you saw it. But there’s no connection. So sad.

I’m sitting here this morning, writing this while I listen to a Bruce Springsteen music station. It’s my way-back machine. I guess I’m just feeling nostalgic and a little bit yearny today. Wishing for simpler times, simpler pleasures, and, as Bruce sings – a little of that Human Touch.

Day 76 — It seems I’m falling behind

It seems I’m falling behind in my goals. But perception isn’t always accurate.

Despite the longer gaps in my blog posts I have been quite busy working on my goals. Purging is continuing in all its forms and I am feeling lighter, clearer and more in control every day. My daily walks continue and my body and mind are definitely the better for that.

I spent the first two weeks of March back in my home near Edmonton. The first week, I watched my grandchildren while their parents went on a holiday. I had a great time and it was the perfect way to start off a new month. I love great beginnings!

The second week involved taking care of business at home. Vehicle check-up, personal check-up — the joy of having to find a new doctor — sigh. Then there was chores at home — the house needed a good cleaning prior to company arriving. Window frames needed painting, a shower head needed fixing, and electrical switches needed replacing — thank you Landon!

During that second week I was struggling. Struggling with the enormity of repairs and maintenance our house needs, struggling with feelings of self-doubt, struggling with anxiety over all the things I cannot control. When I get like that it can be very difficult to remain positive and to see that there is a way out from all the dark thoughts, the overwhelming need to BE IN CONTROL. Lucky for me I had my grandpuppy Hades to walk every day and, later in the week, we were expecting company.

Walking Hades got me out into the fresh air and allowed me to escape my internal drama for an hour or so. And because I could turn it off for that little while it made returning to it easier to cope with. Slowly, I was able to tell myself that I was doing fine, that everything would be fine, that my house was fine — you get the idea.

By the time our company arrived — Tim’s brother and his wife — relatives we consider good friends, I was, not to be facetious, in control. My house was spotless. The dangerous electrical switches had been replaced, my vehicle was given the thumbs-up, the shower worked properly and my window frames were painted. I could relax. Kind of.

Because, of course, you want everything to be perfect when you have guests. Not that I needed to worry — our guests are incredibly easy to get along with and so much fun to be around that we always have a great time. Spending a few days with them got me to let go and just enjoy our time together.

Something that was said to me a long time ago when I was a girl of about 13 or 14 by a friend of my mother’s came back to me during that second week. I had been complaining  to her about how messy our house was and about how I hated always having to be cleaning up. Why, I remember asking this person, couldn’t my mother keep a clean house (sorry Mom) and how embarrassing it was to me when people came to visit. My Mom’s friend, whom I had been babysitting for, said: Kathy, people don’t come to visit your mother’s house; they come to visit your mother.

Since then, I have, of course, heard that same adage repeated in many different ways and forms. And I’ve always thought how true it was, while in the back of my mind a little voice whispered: yes, but not your house. Your house will be neat and tidy and people will come and visit and be SO IMPRESSED. 

Well, guess what. I finally realized the actual truth of those words. No one cared that I had spent two days dusting, washing and scrubbing — they cared that they were there. With us. Laughing, visiting and living.

When I think back to those days when I was that snotty, opinionated girl I see that our house was not dirty — it was messy — how could it not be with ten people, a dog and two cats living in it? But it was always (almost) filled with laughter and fun. Just about any day after school we could come home and find my Mom sitting at the kitchen table having coffee or, occasionally, a golden Cadillac or a grasshopper with one of her friends while they played crib or double solitaire. My brother’s and sister’s friends came and went like our house was their own. My parents made them all feel welcome and comfortable.

We didn’t have a lot, but what we had they weren’t ashamed of.

Why, oh, why does it take so long to learn these simple lessons?

Day 68 and the purge continues

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As I said in my last post I was having a great time looking after my grandkids for a week. Well, the week ended on Saturday. It was a busy one and I’m so thankful I had that opportunity.

Busy as last week was I still managed to get some purging done at home.

I tackled the old sewing basket. This we inherited from Tim’s mother. It’s a good, sturdy one and it holds a lot. Over the years I’ve stuffed it so full of notions and sewing stuff that it had become next to impossible to find anything in it.

You know all the buttons, snaps and clasps that come attached to any new piece of clothing you buy? Jammed in there. Along with spool after spool of thread, sewing needles still with the thread in them, straight pins, safety pins, iron on patches, zippers and elastic. There was a large mason jar full of buttons – that Tim’s mom had collected. (My button collection is stored elsewhere.)

Needless to say it needed to be cleaned up. It took me an afternoon, but I did it. I chucked most of the elastic – because it wasn’t elasticky anymore, and I rounded up all the loose needles, de-threaded them and stuck them back in one of the three packages I found.

Then I had to unpackage all those buttons. All those tiny little plastic bags they were in bothered me.  First, what a waste of plastic and second, they were hard to get open.

Back in the day extra buttons were tacked to the inside of a garment – on a hem or a seam – a far more efficient and useful method. I’d think this way of providing that extra button or snap would be cheaper for the manufacturer. And it would save a helluva lot of time for the wearer when they needed to find that matching button. ‘Cause there it would be, right on the garment! Sometimes, old ideas are best.

This week is another busy one.  We have company coming and I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do to get ready.  A leaky shower head to fix, window frames to paint and coat hooks to put up. It seems like there’s always something.

I find myself wishing that all the things I needed to get done were already done. That I could spend an entire day writing or baking or reading or walking. Anything but attending to what has to be done. Because when I do any of the former I’m left feeling guilty that I didn’t accomplish any of the latter.

My goal today is to turn that feeling of guilt into a feeling of accomplishment. I’ll get what I need to done and then I’ll focus on what I want.

 

 

Day 61

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The tree that had the light – unfortunately my skills couldn’t capture it – but it was there!

I’m a lucky grandma. I get to spend a week with my grandbabies. Their parents are off for a little R&R.

So I’m spending these few days getting to know them all just a little better. They’re growing up so fast and becoming such interesting people. I love how their personalities just shine through; they’re not babies anymore. It’s great having real conversations with them and  getting small glimpses of the adults they’ll one day become.

Of course, realizing that they’re getting older reminds me that I am, too. Sigh. I don’t have the energy I did when they were small and when it’s bedtime for them, its bedtime for me.

I like that I get this mini opportunity to grand-parent. The joy of preparing meals for them and sitting down together to eat and talk and laugh. Asking them how school was and did they learn anything interesting. The answer is the same one their father gave me: no. Just doing small things for them that I hope will make them smile. It’s such a joy.

I have always been very conscious of time. The limit of it, the way it is expended in each and every heartbeat and I’ve tried as hard as I can to make sure the time I’ve been given is not wasted.

Lately, and I know this has a lot to do with my father’s passing and my impending 60th birthday, I’ve been doing a lot of wondering about how I’ve spent my time.

When I look back I see the mistakes I made, and I truly regret them. But then, I look at my grandchildren and I see how everything I’ve done has led to them. And for that I have no regret.

The sun is shining today, making the frost in the trees sparkle. At breakfast, my grandsons were talking about it. The youngest told his brother “look at that tree, the top is like a light,” with the wonder only an eight-year old can have.  His brother, who is two years older, scoffed and replied, not unkindly, “it’s not a light, it’s just the sun shining on the frost.” The youngest took a bite of cereal and then very calmly and firmly said, “It’s light. And it’s sparkly.”

I’m so glad I was there to hear them. It’s always the small things.